As we all scream around the curve that is October and head for the straightaway of November, it has suddenly occurred to me that this is high-season pumpkin time. This week’s gentle reminder of Wednesday’s “National Pumpkin Cheesecake Day” prompted me into fast action.

Just which of our chefs in this lovely town of ours is ladling out the pumpkin goods? As it turns out, quite a few are carving out a pumpkin groove. As their emails continue to zing back to me, here’s what I’ve gathered thus far. Be sure to check my social channels (@BestofLagunaBeach) for more pumpkin news as additional, confirmed sightings occur.

Pumpkin Cocktail, Anyone?

Two of our resident favorites are touting pumpkin cocktails, so let’s get the party rolling:

The Great Pumpkin Martini at Selanne Steak Tavern. Photo courtesy of Selanne

Check out this beautiful Great Pumpkin Martini at Selanne Steak Tavern, a smooth and mellow blend of Stoli Vanilla Vodka, spiced pumpkin and a dollop of rich cream. Shaken vigorously, it’s then poured into a frosty glass with a graham cracker rim.

Leave it to Francesca at GG’s Bistro to come up with a Pumpkin Margarita. Wow. It’s quite a lovely blend of tequila, Grand Marnier, just the right amount of pumpkin purée and a pinch of pumpkin spice. It’s simply shaken and poured into a spiced rim of brown sugar and ground cinnamon.

GG’s Bistro Pumpkin Margarita. Photo courtesy of GG’s


Pumpkin Soup, Purée & Butternut Cousins

It was great news to hear that Chef Maro Molteni at Royal Hawaiian Fire Grill has returned his amazing Pumpkin Soup to the fall menu. It debuts this weekend. A creamy, delectable blend, it’s topped with mozzarella cheese, croutons and chives.

And, while Chef Maro has always featured his pumpkin purée beneath the best wood-grilled chicken dish on the planet, he’s also begun serving the same purée under his popular wood-grilled Hangar Steak. It’s a beautiful contrast to the smoky proteins and vegetables on the composed plate.

Royal Hawaiian Free Range Chicken with Pumpkin Purée

And, The Lumberyard is keeping it in the family with a Butternut Squash Risotto served with their Slow-Braised Short Ribs. The special item debuts this coming weekend.

Meanwhile, Chef Rainer Schwarz at Driftwood Kitchen churns his butternut squash into pillowy Gnocchi for a small plate best seller.

Comfort & Love Desserts

This year, I believe we’ve all earned the right to rich, gooey desserts.

Reunion Kitchen has reintroduced its neighborly favorite (and one of my own), Pumpkin Spice Buttercake. A carefully preserved recipe, Owner Scott McIntosh won’t even tell me what he adds to create the

Reunion Kitchen’s Pumpkin Spice Buttercake. Photo courtesy of Reunion

rich cake’s moistness. Don’t even try; he is adamant. It’s served with rich whipped cream, vanilla ice cream and butterscotch-y sauce for dipping.

The Cliff Restaurant’s Pumpkin Crème Brûlée. Photo courtesy of The Cliff.

For added and gooier satisfaction, head over to local favorite stronghold The Cliff for their Pumpkin Crème Brûlée debuting this weekend.

“It’s our ultimate pumpkin pie and it’s gluten-free,” Culinary Director Erika Gibson told me. How’s that for a win?

Selanne Steak Tavern’s flavorful version of Crème Brûlée (pictured at the top of this article) adds lovely fluffs of pumpkin cake, sweetly spiced pepitas and creamy-rich almond ice cream.

To complete the current list of decadent goodness, make tracks back to Lumberyard for Chef’s Pumpkin Bread Pudding. This popular bread pudding dessert is always a staple on the menu, but Chef Primo switches his mix-ins often.

Lumberyard Pumpkin Bread Pudding

Now on the menu for several autumn weeks, this super-moist pumpkin version is drizzled in custard-y, pumpkin-y goodness with vanilla ice cream as its crown.

Pumpkin Pies Just Around the Corner

As I noted earlier, November is (alarmingly) in our sights. I’m not quite sure what happened to this year but – as of today – we have just one month and two days until Thanksgiving.

Moulin’s Laurent Vrignaud is debuting pumpkin and pecan pies early in November as we all need to try at least one slice of both as a sort of “start your engines” action before heading into our Thanksgiving meal.

And Ron Reno of famed Andree’s Patisserie is heading into his 39th year of crafting his magnificent special order pies (Pumpkin, Pecan and Apple) for the holidays.

Ron Reno’s Thanksgiving pies at Andree’s Patisserie

He’s not taking orders until a couple weeks out so – no – you cannot assail him with phone calls; I’ll let you know when phone lines are open. In the meantime, though, stop in for a miniature pumpkin pie – his daily-crafted, best-selling pumpkin tarts debut this weekend.

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